Holy Name Society and Devotion to Bl. John of Vercelli, OP

fr. Nick Monco, Promoter of the Holy Name Society for the Province of St. Albert the Great, with the relic of Bl. John of Vercelli, a piece of his walking staff.

What do three different areas of the United States and a medieval Dominican blessed have in common? - The Archconfraternity of the Holy Name Society. On December 1st, the memorial of Bl. John of Vercelli, three celebrations occurred in the Philadelphia, New Orleans, and San Francisco in honor of the titular founder of the Holy Name Society. We do so out of veneration for our founder and promotion of his cause to be named a Saint for the Order and the Church.

John Garbella, popularly known as Bl. John of Vercelli, was born in a small town around Vercelli, Italy at the beginning of the thirteenth century. He studied canon law and entered the Dominican Order in the 1240’s around the same time as St. Thomas Aquinas. In 1251 he was named Inquisitor at the same time as St. Peter of Verona. He was named Prior Provincial of Lombardy from 1257 to 1264, and then in the footsteps of his predecessor, Bl. John of Saxony, he was elected the sixth Master General of the Dominican Order. As Master General he completed the first tomb of St. Dominic, treasured the relic of the cord of St. Thomas Aquinas, and was sent by different popes with the Franciscan Minister General to elicit peace from rulers of Castile and France.

But Bl. John of Vercelli is known by many in the United States because he was asked to spread devotion to the Most Holy Name of Jesus. At the end of the Second Council of Lyon in 1274, Pope Gregory X asked Bl. John to spread devotion to the Most Holy Name of Jesus among the friars and to ask the friars to spread this devotion among the clergy and lay people. Bl. John immediately sent out a letter instructing the friars to proceed with the pope’s request. The Master General visited the houses of the Order and he did so untiringly on foot with a walking staff. At every house he instructed the friars on the devotion of the Holy Name of Jesus and was a living example of the poverty of our Lord. As Master General he travelled by foot all over Europe and made it to the General Chapter held every year in various cities of Europe. He died after the General Chapter held in Montpellier on November 30, 1283 at around 80 years of age.

The Holy Name Society has a grand history, but it all begins here with Bl. John of Vercelli. His body was destroyed in the religious clashes of the sixteenth century, but his walking staff remains. This staff is housed in Chiesa di San Cristoforo in Vercelli, but two pieces of it are in chapels in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and New Orleans, Louisiana.

For the Eight Hundredth Jubilee of the Dominican Order, the 46th Annual Convention of the National Association of the Holy Name Society was allowed to receive the relic from Philadelphia for veneration in September of this year. For the feast day of Bl. John of Vercelli, three celebrations are taking place to honor him and spread devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. The one in Philadelphia occurred October 6th. The relic of his walking staff is at Holy Name of Jesus Church in Philadelphia. One celebration will be at St. Dominic’s in New Orleans. The relic of a piece of his walking staff has been part of the church since it was built in 1961. The third celebration will be at St. Dominic’s Church in San Francisco with the Promoter of the Holy Name Society for the Western Dominican Province on December 1st.

We walk in great footsteps in following Bl. John of Vercelli. May he continue to help us as we continue to pray for the miracle that will be recognized for his cause for canonization.


O God, you willed that the blessed John of Vercelli should shine with wonderful prudence and constancy; grant, through his intercession, that your family may always and everywhere be governed by beneficial rule. Amen.

N.B. For those who will receive graces through the intercession of blessed John of Vercelli are kindly requested to make contact with the Promotor of the Holy Name Society and with the office of the General Postulation of the Order.  


(30 November 2016)